Many of you may already know that I have auditioned to be on HGTV’s Design Star since it’s very first season was announced 8 years ago. The deadline this year was Nov 1st, I always send my application on the last day, it’s part of my strategy, so just hours before time was up I emailed my video to HGTV for season 8. Five days later as I was leaving the voting polls, I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize , I hit the answer button, asuming it was one of the many political calls I had been getting lately and I almost didn’t pick up the call, but I was feeling like a good American for casting my vote and I thought ok i’ll give one of these telemarketers my opinion.
“Hello is this Debi Beard? ..
yes it is…
Hi Debi, this is Lindsey one of the casting agents for HGTV….
Here is the audition video I sent this year,
I have been called three times in years past and a phone interview is what usually takes place next or they ask me to send in more information, one year they asked me to send in a second tape demonstrating what my show would be like if I had my own series on HGTV.
When the casting agent called I was not expecting to hear her say that I was getting on a plane to meet the producers of Design Star in less than a week!
I must have been in shock when Lindsey told me that I was a semi-finalist and was seriously being considered for season 8 of Design Star because I felt strangely calm almost numb. I was told that I could only tell one person about my Design Star status and if I posted anything on Facebook or online in any fashion I would be DISQUALIFIED.
That was challenging…. there were many many people that I wanted to share the good news with. The person I decided to tell was my best friend/ Mom, as soon as I told her she began to lecture me about keeping my lips zipped! “Mom, can I at least get a woohoo! before you give me a lecture?”
I was told to bring my portfolio (which was very outdated) and get everything else taken care of so I could leave for New York, in 5 days!
I had no current photos of my house as I am always changing it so I called a friend/photographer Pam Birmingham to come take some current pictures, I couldn’t tell her why she had to come so quickly or what it was for, I made up a story about a magazine being interested in my work but I am not sure she believed me.
You can view the portfolio I put/ threw together for my HGTV interview below,
In five days I lost 3 pounds, had my hair cut and colored, got a cute new red dress at Anthropologie, cleaned all the crafty mess from my house, staged photo shoot, slammed my portfolio together, filled out a 5 page background check form, and got on a Monday morning 7 o’clock flight to New York. As my Dad dropped me off at the airport he looked at me and said, “well wherever you are going, I’ll be praying for you”.
As I waited for my boarding call I re-read the list of specific instructions from HGTV, this was how my top secret interview process, was to go down…
-Take a taxi from JFK to the Holiday Inn on 26TH AVE and check in.
Your interview time is 12:30 please do not be early, please do not be late.
Come with hair and makeup already done.
Wear something that reflects your personality,
Do not wear anything with stripes or logos and avoid the color white and bulky sweaters.
( I am not a big make up girl so I had no idea what to do other than how I normally put make up on which is minimal.)
I went to the news stand to find something to read on the plane, no stops at Starbucks for me, this would have normally been a priority but a year ago I decided to become a vegan and two years prior I had given up coffee to combat chronic fatigue. I wasn’t hungry yet and I was sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find some kind of organic vegan food in NYC…. ( more on that later).
I picked up the latest issue of HGTV magazine and waited for my boarding call, then my phone alerted me that I had a new email from the HGTV casting team…
We have not received a resume from you yet, please send it to us ASAP.
Well… HGTV had not received my resume because I had just skipped this particular part of the very long application. It took approximately 6 hours to complete the in depth 10 page form, not to mention, I have filled out the dreaded application every year for the last 8 years…) I saved a copy of my answers from the previous year but this year the format had been changed, the file was designed so that you couldn’t save your answers, and there was a notice in the instructions that said,
PLEASE NOTE: When filling out the participant application you will not be able to save as you go; therefore, it is recommended that you plan to complete your application at one time. Also, if you would like to keep a copy of your filled out application for your records then you must print the form before hitting the “Submit” button below.
The entire application had to be filled out in one sitting. ughhh!
My application was a hot mess, I had hammered out half of my answers and for some reason, my screen shuts down and a window pops up that says,
Your application has been sent, thank you for applying to HGTV Design Star!
I wasn’t done filling it out yet!!!!! oh nooooooooooo!
i could only think of two options, A- start ALL over again or B send the second half and email HGTV about my application coming in two parts.
I opted for B. I really, really did not want to re-answer all the questions again. The questions are tough, mind boggling and take some serious time and pondering. Here’s an example of just a few of the MANY questions,
What do you think makes you a star?
What qualities and skills do you bring to HGTV that no one else does?
What is your unique design point of view? What perspective do you have on design that sets you apart from others?
Why should you have your own HGTV series?
What are your top 5 unique design tips that you would like others to know?
I painstakingly poured my heart into each and every question and when I got to the section that said,
Resume, attach file here…
I was thinking huh? this application already covers everything that would be in a resume and I have been self employed for 20+ years i’ve never had to create one, maybe it’s optional so I’ll just pretend I don’t see that part.
Well no Debi it’s not optional, not at all… duh.
I write back to the HGTV casting team and tell them that I will work on it during my flight and send it by the end of the day.
I call my mom and she tells me that you can download resume forms from the internet. you might think this is a simple task, for most people maybe, but not for me, it’s a pain.
I was kicked out of my High School typing class and i’ve hen pecked my way through life ever since.
Attention passengers, flight 653 to New York is now boarding…
When the pilot turned off the seatbelt sign, I looked up at the overhead compartment where my laptop was and decided to watch the in-flight movie instead. The life story of Katy Perry! Surely the resume could wait until I got to my hotel room that night. BTW Katy Perry is amazing, her voice is a powerhouse and now I am dyeing to see one of her shows, Her story is very inspiring, she works almost non-stop and the costumes and sets look like a circus ride. (I know I am off track, even writing about the resume stresses me out).
So yeah I’m sitting on the plane in the middle seat and there is the guy to my right who looks like a 30 something executive and the girl to my left a 20ish young hipster who is crocheting a hat. I have my HGTV magazine on my lap and I dying to say to them, guess where I’m going? you might see me in this magazine soon, I’m sooooo EXCITED!!!!! I’m going to New York City, because HGTV likes meeeeeee! yahooooo! I’m sure you’ve heard of it right? Design Star is the biggest show on HGTV!
I was having this conversation with them in my head but in reality I never said a word. I had silent conversations with the airport clerks, the magazine guy, the stewardess and my taxi driver, I tried to tell them with my eyes that I had a very important secret mission and they all seemed to giving a knowing smile as if they were saying, “Oh yeah girl, you go now!”
We finally land in NYC the flight was five hours plus a time change so even though i had boarded at 7:45 am the sun was setting when I got to the big apple.
I hike out to of JFK and start looking for a taxi, a driver approaches me as I head toward a yellow row of cabs. “you need a taxi?’ he said. I nod and he leads me to his car but it wasn’t in the line up of cabs and it wasn’t a yellow car, I hesitated and asked how much the fare would be before I got in, (HGTV told me to get a receipt so I could be reimbursed) I wasn’t sure about this guy , he told me 85$ plus toll fees and that it would take an hour to get to Manhattan because it was raining and it was rush hour. I had 100$ cash and asked him if he took credit cards, he said, “no but we can stop at an ATM’ I was thinking hmmm this is weird but I just wanted to get to my hotel get some dinner, finish the daunting resume and still have time to see a little of New York. I was told that as soon as my interview was over I would be getting back in a cab and flying home!
I gotin the black car that reminded me of a hearse, a strong smell of gasoline filled the interior, I pray that the car would not explode and crack the window to get some air, I was thinking about the toxic fumes I was breathing in as the driver rolls the window back up! He is an angry but talkative cabbie, asking me why I was in New York and for how long, you know I wanted to tell him but I just said I was there for a job interview. He proceeded to tell me all the reasons why I should not move to New york as he drove recklessly through traffic. He was driving like a stereo typical cabbie, careening through traffic and cutting people off, I am looking up and out the window taking in the view as he cuts in front of another cab, I say to myself, oh man there is no way that other cab can avoid hitting us! Then I screamed… and the cab we cut off hits us from behind. My driver blocks the other cab in, turns off his engine, get out and proceeds toward the cab who hit us, both cabbies are now having a shouting match with profanity included at no extra charge. As this is going down the cab i’m in is blocking traffic, so of course honking and screaming in coming in from all over the place. I am just sitting in the cab texting my mom about the events taking place and thinking come on dude get back in and drive i’ve got important stuff to do! My mom texts back and says, “don’t worry this is normal for New York.”
My angry driver finally gets back in, says nothing to me and continues to drive quietly. when we get to my hotel he tells me the fare was 93$ and not to worry about a tip. He give me his card and says if you need a cab back tomorrow the fair will only be $65. I say, “ok thank you” but silently I say, no way in hell my friend.
I get in the lobby and the guy at the counter is expecting me, at this point I am wondering if all the Design Star finalist are staying at the same hotel and if some of the people checking in could be auditioning as well. I get my key and the hotel guy gives me that knowing, go get em smile! I feel like Marlo Thomas in That Girl! I’m thinking I AM ‘That Girl’ yay!!!!!!!! I just want to go running throughout the streets of NYC throw my hat up in the air, spin around and catch it! … Oh wait. that was Mary Tyler Moore not Marlo.
me trying to look like Marlo and /or Mary…
Any hoo I am walking on the moon! I get to my room plop on my bed and see that I have a new email from HGTV…. crap… bubble burst.
Have you sent your resume yet?? Heavy sigh….
Well I had not eaten anything all day due to the fact that there was no organic food to be found in the airport and you know there wasn’t anything on the plane that I would eat. I googled organic restaurants and siri found a place called Organics-to -Go at the Chelsea pier. It sounded perfect so I asked the hotel concierge if it was a close walk and he assured me it was, so I did not even bother putting on comfy shoes and headed out to get dinner, also i was dying to get some fresh air and see soak in some of New york. I had been to Manhattan just once before, it was work related and very brief. I headed down 26th and walked right by the Rachel Ray studios! I immediately thought about the, True Hollywood Story I had seen about Rachel, the woman is a hard worker and her story is pretty awesome and inspiring! !5 minutes go by and i realise the walk was a lot longer than I anticipated, New York city blocks super-sized, my feet were hurting, and I was hungry. But I was easily distracted, it was a crispy fall evening but not too cold, a great night for a walk, there were people out eating picnic dinners in the park and others walking their dogs. I found myself in the art district and walked by a few galley showings, through the windows I could see clusters of chic New Yorkers, dressed in black, mingling and drinking cocktails.
I finally arrive at the pier and the security guard tells me that everything inside is closed!! I am a little cranky now and I ask the guard where to get food. I mutter my opinion about the concierge to myself and start looking for a place to eat… whatever, organic or not.
I begin to worry about the resume, i did not want to be up late, and there was something else I had to do, my portfolio was not 100% complete either! I still had to assemble the cover. I found a tattered velvet victorian photo album at an estate sale, it was beautifully decrepit and frayed the spine was broken and my plan was to stitch it together with some velvet fabric and attach the CD that I had burned my portfolio onto, on the inside. I packed my glue gun and the craft supplies I needed to finish my project in my luggage but I had to find scissors, I purposely left mine at home because I didn’t want security to confiscate them.
As I made my way back toward my hotel I found a small health food grocery store, oh hallelujah! I Stocked up on some organic snacks, coconut water and a vegan sandwitch , the grocery clerk was on the phone the entire time I was there, he rung me up while on the phone and when I tried to ask him a question it was difficult to get his attention. I finally asked him, “do you know of any restaurants that serve organic food ?” He rolled his eyes and continued his phone conversation. I head back and pass Rachel’s studio one more time as I spill about 6$ worth of organic cashews on the sidewalk. when I get inside the lobby of my hotel, I ask the ‘lobby guy’ for a sewing kit and some scissors, (he does not deserve the title of concierge anymore) he hands them to me with reluctance like there must be a hotel full of creative people finishing up their portfolios on every floor. I eyeball everybody I pass in the hallways wondering if they are HGTV hopefuls like me and some of them looked at me in the same way, but then I have a pretty (over) active imagination.
I’m back in my room munching on my sandwich and my mom calls, “how’s it going?” I tell her, ” this resume is bugging, I don’t want to do it, I still need to finish my portfolio cover and get some sleep!” She prays with me and calms me down… I love my Mom! Because of the resume issue I did not have much time to worry about the next day. I had read Kellie Clements Blog, Kellie was the fan favorite from season 6 and she gives a detailed account of her interview process here. I was hoping that my interview process would be similar. Kellie describes having a short amount of time to assemble swatches onto a design board, and then present her design plan to a panel of judges.
If I was uber prepared, I would have designed a room in my head and rehearsed some kind of room presentation dialog. that’s not how I work in real life, when I make a video i don’t script it because it doesn’t feel authentic. I also think some how that would have put me in freak out mode, I just wanted everything to happen organically, I knew that if I was going to connect with the producers I would have to give them the real me with the rough edges included.
I audition every year for Design Star and many have asked me why I keep trying. I don’t do it because I think that I am the perfect fit for design star, I actually think that I more than likely stick out like a sore thumb among the super polished designers that HGTV typically selects. Most of the designers have amazing high end portfolios, they all seem to have a very modern clean line asthectic and they have worked with budgets that are much bigger than the projects I have worked on. I do not doubt my ability to compete with other very talented designers. I just know that I am not typical, and some may say what is this girl doing on the show??? well then of course I would have to say, “I’m not, this girl, I am, That Girl!
Seriously I just think that Television is missing a huge audience that want’s to see everyday projects that are fun and affordable. I would really like to inspire those who can’t nesscarily afford a 30,000 kitchen make over but still want a great kitchen. I also would love to bring my sense of humor to design, I know that I absorb more If I am being entertained as I learn. And humor is rarely seen in the design world. So I hen pecked at my resume, Stitched up my portfolio and set out my outfit for the next day.
My cell phone was still on San Diego time so I set my phone alarm for 3:30 am west coast time, then I set the hotel alarm clock for 6:30 am east coast time and I asked also for a 6:30 wake up call, just to be triple safe. I did not want to sleep in, I had a lot to do before my interview. I wanted to do a rehearsal walk to the casting studios in the morning hours ahead of my 12:30 appointment time so that I would be sure not to get lost. My instructions from HGTV said it was a short walk, well I did not want to take any chances. I also had to pluck my eyebrows, and attempt to do hair and make up TV style…. oh and I wasn’t sure about my glittered tights, they were black and my boots were also black, that seemed kinda boring to me, I had originally planed to wear a pair of aqua tights but when I put them on with my red dress I just felt like one of Santa’s elves. I was hoping to find a pair of paisley printed tights or some other jazzy color in the morning and just maybe I would find an organic juice bar for breakfast too!
I had no trouble sleeping that night, I had very little sleep all week getting everything ready for my audition. All alarms went off at the same time and it seemed like I had only slept a few minutes. I was excited to get back out on the streets of NYC and find some kind of healthy breakfast, this time I put on my sneakers google mapped the route to the casting studio and planned to take in the breakfast options along the way. My route was down 26th to 5th Ave and make a right turn on 13th. It looked pretty easy on the map and I was excited to check out 5th ave and get outside!
Here is the one and only picture I took in New york it’s a photo of gram a park as I passed by it on my walk that morning. I don’t know why I didn’t take more photos, or take some video…probably because of the top secretness of it all, I did not want to get reprimanded for taking pics, maybe next time 🙂
The streets were filled with busy commuters rushing to this and that. I was trying not to look like a tourist but I did have that Marlo Thomas/Mary Tyler Moore, feeling wash over me again, New york is so powerful the old buildings still have faded signage from their first life, you get a strong sense of all the activity that has taken place in that city for decades, it’s as if the city itself has soul that demands respect. I made my way down fifth turned right at 13th and found the casting studio. The name of it was Three of us Studios, and I told myself that Three of us, stood for God, HGTV and myself. In other words God was with me… and he was indeed! After that I made my way further down 5th none of the shops were open yet but it was pretty fun to window shop. I then began my search for breakfast, every cafe I went in had lots of juice but not one that was organic. I even found a juice bar but all of the produce they used to make juice with… not organic. I did find more of the raw organic coconut water like the kind I had found the night before, that stuff is all over Manhattan it’s really good and ironically it’s hard to find in San Diego. So I spent four dollars for another tiny bottle of coco h2o and went back to my hotel to get ready and check out.
HGTV instructed me to check out before my audition and bring my suitcase with me, I would not be returning to the hotel I would be getting in a cab as soon as I was done and flying home. The hotel check out time was 11 am my appointment was 12:30 pm, I was told to be exactly on time not early and not late… they specified, take the elevator to the 12th floor and some one will be there to meet you. After that they gave me no clues as to what to expect from my audition process, they did say,” bring your portfolio and of course your personality”… oh crap what if my personality did not want to come with me??? You may think that I am kidding but I have good reason to say that. If you watch my youtube videos you might be surprised to find out that I have spent most of my life stuck inside a painfully shy person. I use to be afraid of public speaking in any shape or form, while on the inside, I had a secret desire to inspire and entertain but you would not know it to meet me. There were thousands of words that were never spoken in my life and many many missed opportunities. A life time of this makes you very sad, frustrated and angry, especially the times when you feel that you have something to contribute but fear blocks you from being who you really want to be.
My first video attempts at trying for Design Star in 2005 through 2008 were painful to watch it was so hard to just be myself when the camera was turned on and truthfully I did not know much about who I was on camera because I was quiet around anyone that I didn’t know well, only a few of my friends and my family knew the whacky fun side of me.
I didn’t know if I would ever find a way to bring that side out. I was embarrassed to even tell anyone that I had auditioned I knew they would think, You??? on TV??? not so much…
5 years ago my brother invited me to an on camera workshop, he said the teacher was awesome, as he described his approach to teaching I knew that I needed to go. I signed up for an all day workshop I was freaked out during the entire class, the camera was constantly on and the teacher looked like Jesus Christ at a Grateful Dead show…
I just wanted to sneak out. Part of our exercise for the day was to write down something that we really wanted to say to the world, memorize it and recite it with emotion to the rest of the class. My head was screaming at me, Debi who do you think you are kidding? You can’t do this! Get out of here before you make a fool of your self, you are in for a panic attack if you attempt this!
With shaky hands, I wrote my monologue, it was about a real life recurring dream that haunted me… in my dream there was something really important that I needed to say but there is this wad of gum in my mouth. as I try to get it out so I can speak, it gets bigger and bigger until I start to choke, while I am digging out the endless wad of gum my window of opportunity closes and I am left angry and sad….. (well it doesn’t take a psyciatrisrt to to analise that dream!)
When it became my turn came to recite the monologue I had written, I was in full freak out mode, my legs trembling, my heart racing, i negotiated with myself, I resolved to say my words as fast as I could, bail on putting emotion into it, get it over with so I could get the heck out and never come back! That is almost exactly how it happened, but not quite… I got up terrified choked out the words quickly shrugged my shoulders and tried to sit down but Jesus Garcia did not let me.. oh no he made me keep trying until I could bring the obvious emotion (frustration) into my monologue. At that point my mindset switched from get it over with and get out, to do it right quick and THEN get the hell out!
The miracle was this, as the teacher instructed me to think about a time in my life when I felt frustrated a million emotions came flooding in… my life for the most part was FRUSTRATION and for the first time ever I was able to express myself, share who I was and not let fear get in the way, then I really began to describe the dream, my desperation to speak up and connect with others and the anger that welled inside of me because I couldn’t, I shared how I would pull and pull on that gum wad and it would just seem to get bigger as I pulled and I described how awful old used up decomposing flavorless gum tastes in your mouth…when I finished my monologue there were tears rolling down my face, I was done and the class was dead silent, as I looked out some of the people in class were crying with me.
From that moment on I made a commitment to myself, to do the work, to become the kind of person who could share and inspire others no matter how scary the situation seemed to be. I took acting classes from then on for the next three years from Jesus Garcia. that’ of course is not his real name, he is one of the best acting coaches in the world and you can see him in action here.
Back to my audition, there I was dressed in a cute outfit, towing my suitcase around Manhattan at 11 am waiting for my 12:30 appointment. (It was raining and my mom lent me a red umbrella that matched my dress) I went into a few shops and could not find any tights that were better than what I already had on. The time seemed to go by quickly, I did have the thought in my head that the old scared Debi might try to get in the way but I just didn’t let myself go there. I resolved that even if the audition didn’t go well, it was a miracle that I was there in the first place, me Debi about to meet the casting producers for HGTV! This was one of those super special moments in life and I didn’tt want to say I got through it, I wanted to really experience it, be present and appreciate all of it! I thought about all the years I had waited for the call from HGTV and how much I wanted to be a fly on the wall, who are they looking for and what is it really like to actually get on the show? I wanted to savor it all so I could blog about it later and maybe reach other people like me who wanted to know about the all the HGTV behind the scenes stuff. I knew that if I was going to fully experience this audition I had to keep in mind that this was not about me, the reality is the producers were looking for certain qualities, I could only guess at what those qualities might be, the best I could do was show them my most authentic self, and let them decide if I was what they were looking for, Any kind of thinking that I needed to model so called HGTV material would just be counter productive.
The whole week before I felt that God was cheering me on, I kept thinking of the verse that says, without faith it is impossible to please God. This was my walking on water moment and I was determined to get out of that boat and give it all I had! Every time I felt any anxiety I told myself that it was excitement and excitement was good!
I hovered around 13th ave for 15 minutes and finally at 12:27 I walked into the building and into the elevator I pushed the button for the 12th floor as a group of guys with camera equipment were getting out. It seemed like it took a long time to get up to the 12th floor the elevator stopped several times and I started to think I would be late!
The doors opened to the lobby and there sitting on a bench waiting for me was a cute girl in her twenties with a warm smile, she said are you Debi?
To be continued….